Category Archives: Uncategorized

Why I am an archivist

The fourth challenge in the “Year of Living Dangerously for Archives” brings the focus to each of you: Why are you an archivist?

In past months, the calls to action for the “Year of Living Dangerously for Archives” have focused on the value that others find in archives. Now it’s time to talk about the value WE see in what we do. Whether you came into this profession intentionally, by way of a related profession, or by some unforeseen path, there’s a reason why you’ve decided to stay or to pursue a degree. Please take a few minutes (now!) to think about why you’re an archivist–and share that with us. http://www2.archivists.org/living-dangerously/why-i-am-an-archivist

I firmly believe in not asking people to do something I would not be willing to do myself, so let me start this conversation by telling you why I am an archivist. Mine is just one perspective, one answer for one person. I look forward to hearing your stories. Continue reading

Archives and Art: A Story from Detroit

The story of Detroit’s bankruptcy and the accompanying challenges has been in the news regularly for some time. My French-Canadian ancestors came across “détroit” (the straits) in the 1790s and generations of my family have been proud to call that city home—and when asked where I’m from, I still claim Detroit. I was fortunate to pursue my archival education at Wayne State University in the archival studies program led by Dr. Philip P. Mason. One of the great gifts for students at Wayne is the nearness of the Detroit Institute of Art, where we often would head on weekends or between classes to wander through the galleries. So I regularly read the articles about the bankruptcy, which included discussions of potentially selling off some or all of the astonishing collections of the DIA. Continue reading

A Seasonal Toast to Archives: Challenge #3

As we approach the holiday season – replete with wishes of good cheer and year-end toasts, let’s take an opportunity to share the thoughts we all encounter that remind us of the value of archives.

Why do archives matter?  This month’s challenge is simple:  Think about the “quotable” statements you’ve heard or read – perhaps in a professional presentation, an archives class or workshop, a newspaper, magazine, or journal article, a novel or play. The statement may have been made by someone with international recognition, a local “everyday” person, one of your professors, or a friend.  Whatever she or he wrote or said, it made you think, “Yes, that’s why archives are important, that’s why what I do matters….” Continue reading

#AskAnArchivist Day: A Tweet Success

Peter Gottlieb, Chair, SAA Committee on Public Awareness    Peter_Gottlieb_2008bw (1)

This year, SAA President Kathleen Roe dared SAA members to take on a “Year of Living Dangerously for Archives”—to do something to take action to raise awareness of archives. On October 30, at the tail end of American Archives Month, the Committee on Public Awareness challenged members to do just that: We asked archivists to take to Twitter to respond to questions from the public that included the hashtag #AskAnArchivist. Continue reading

Bits, Bytes, and Buzz: Electronic Records Day, 10-10-14

Let the cheering begin for the Council of State Archivists and its Electronic Records Day campaign on October 10, 2014 (10-10-14), and congratulations to all those who did their part in supporting this wonderful event. CoSA initiated this effort as part of American Archives Month four years ago, on the appropriately dated 10-10-10.  SAA and other professional organizations have joined CoSA in the effort, and this year Electronic Records Day has really shown what archivists can do to raise awareness. Continue reading

Archives, Archivists and Data gathering

Dennis MeissnerIn a recent OTR post Kathleen Roe emphasized the need to start gathering baseline data about ourselves, our repositories, and our collections.  Not for their own sake, but to buttress our advocacy arguments. I am especially interested in collecting such information, and I would like to devote some serious energy towards compiling and evaluating the data we need to define, value, and promote our work.

It’s been over more than ten years since the A*CENSUS snapshot and we are in serious need of a refresh of those data.  But at the same time I’m starting to wonder whether a repeat of that effort is the right way to proceed.  If we simply gather a compendium of data about ourselves, who’s going to care?  I’m concerned that a data set like that simply extends a self-referential conversation that has always gone on among ourselves and our closest allies.

But what if we were to turn the lens in another direction?  What if, instead, we were to start asking questions about our users and their needs; how they use archives and for what purposes; and what changes in our public service model would help them achieve success?  If we could make a data-informed case for public investment in archives based on expanding user success, then perhaps we will see people – funders, legislators, researchers, and employers — start to care.  Funders, legislators, researchers, and employers.

I’m thinking we need to marry the the information that’s purely about us, with a very large helping of information that which is about use and users. It is those data that will ultimately define our public value and, therefore, substantiate our advocacy arguments.

So how do we start to gather this other data set?  Who do we ask?  What do we ask? How do we ask it?  What existing data can we chew on?   I believe we need to head in this direction, but I’m unsure how we turn the ship.  I would greatly appreciate hearing your ideas.

Dennis Meissner, Vice-President/President Elect

Archives: the gift that keeps on giving

Sometimes it takes a long time for information in archives to become accessible for a range of reasons. It may simply not have been examined, in other cases, age and condition have prevented our ability to literally see or hear the information. A sparkling New York colleague, Jean Green from Binghamton University, recently posted a link on her Facebook page to the following article about work at Yale University to reveal text on a map that is believed to have been used by Columbus in exploration leading to what are now called the Americas: http://www.wired.com/2014/09/martellus-map/

And that reminded me of another set of revelations thanks to technology lending insight on a question that those of you in my generation struggled with, what triggered the Ohio National Guard to shoot at Kent State students (a subject still raw for many of us). In 2010 technology brought forward more information:

http://www.cleveland.com/science/index.ssf/2010/10/analysis_of_kent_state_audio_t.html

More information on both of these stories, and countless others, will emerge as technology and work by archivists and researchers continues. If you know of examples of information finally emerging as archival records are treated or used, feel free to share it here. A good reminder after a long week (for me at least) of why we do what we do!